Growing Paperwhites Indoors


Paperwhite narcissus are a great choice for easy to grow blooms for the holiday season.  Plant them now for beautiful and fragrant blooms by Christmas.  When it comes to growing paperwhites, it couldn’t be easier.  All they really need is water and light to flourish.

Let your creativity run wild when planting them.  Some popular planting methods are the classics like using a hyacinth vase (pictured) or simply “planting” them in pebbles in a vase, jar, or other container for support.  The key is to make sure they have room for the roots to grow, they’re well supported, and they have plenty of light.

Growing Paperwhites in Water

  • To "plant" your bulbs, begin by carefully placing a layer of stones or pebbles to a depth of about 2" in a small vase or about 4" in a larger vase.
  • Next place a layer of Paperwhite bulbs close to each other with the roots facing down. Put a few stones or pebbles around and between the bulbs to anchor them in the vase. Leave the tops of the bulbs exposed.
  • Finally, add water until the level reaches just below the base of the bulbs, but no higher (if the bases of the bulbs sit in water, they will rot).
  • Follow the instructions for "Rooting and care" below.


Growing Paperwhites in Soil

  • To pot the bulbs in soil begin by placing potting mix in a container or bucket for preperation. Slowly add water and stir until the mix is moist but not soggy. Add moistened mix to the planting container until it is about 3/4 full.
  • Set the bulbs, pointed end up, on top of the mix. Space the bulbs very closely; they should almost touch. Then add more mix, covering the bulbs up to their necks and leaving the tips exposed. Water thoroughly.
  • Follow the instructions for "Rooting and care" below.



Rooting and Care

  • Set your container or vase in a cool (50-60°F is ideal) place away from direct sunlight. Check the bulbs frequently and water thoroughly when the potting mix is dry 1" below the surface (but not more than once a week until the bulbs begin active growth), or when the water level is more than 1" below the stones or glass in your vase.
  • If your bulbs are in a bowl (a pot without a drainage hole), water with extra care: Bulbs sitting in soggy potting mix soon rot.
  • Once a week, tug gently on the bulbs to see if they have begun to produce roots. When your tug meets with firm resistance (usually about 1 week after potting), move the container to a sunny window.
  • Keep a close eye on watering. Bulbs in active growth can dry out in just a day or two.
  • When Paperwhites are forced to bloom indoors, they have a tendency to topple when in flower. Hold them upright with bamboo stakes and twine.
  • After Paperwhites finish blooming, we recommend that you throw the bulbs out or toss them on the compost pile. They won't bloom again indoors.


Pro Tip: Controlling Paperwhite Growth


When grown indoors, especially with dimmer winter light, paperwhites can get taller than their normal average of 16 inches.  This can cause them to flop over when they bloom if they’re not supported.  However, there is a trick to keep them short. Booze! 

Add water as you normally would, then wait about one week until roots are growing and the shoot is green and 1-2 inches above the top of the bulb. At this point, pour off the water and replace it with a solution of 4-6% alcohol made from just about any hard liquor such as gin, vodka, whiskey, or tequila.  As a general rule of thumb, add about 1 part alcohol to 7 parts water.

Use the alcohol solution instead of water for further irrigation of the bulbs. The plants will start to show effects within just a few days. Researchers aren't sure why the alcohol stunts the plant's growth, but suspect it is simply water stress, in which the alcohol makes it difficult for the plants to absorb water.